NAWG Weekly Update: December 1, 2016
California Court Rules in Favor of EPA on Pesticide Lawsuit, NAWG Pleased
Last week, a California federal court ruled in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and an industry coalition including CropLife America and NAWG on a lawsuit in which plaintiffs had asked the court to order EPA to regulate seeds treated with pesticides as if the seeds were the pesticides themselves. Such regulation would have been redundant and duplicative of the EPA’s current science-based regulatory review of the active ingredients in treatment products. In ruling in favor of the EPA and the industry coalition, the California federal crop reinforced the importance of decisions made on the basis of science-based reviews of crop protection products, while also protecting the ability of growers to utilize the products and technologies that ensure production and yield. NAWG is very pleased with the court’s decision regarding the lawsuit, and will continue to work with other industry organizations to ensure that decisions regarding crop protection products are based on proven science and do not jeopardize growers’ ability to use technology that is vital for the success of American agriculture.
114th Congress Works to Wrap up Pending Business
The 114th Congress is winding down its work and action is still pending on FY 2017 Appropriations. The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that lasts through Friday, December 9, 2016. Through a CR, federal government operations are continuing at FY 2016 levels until Congressional action takes place. With the election of President-Elect Donald Trump, reports have indicated that Congressional leaders are working towards action next week on another continuing resolution that would last into next year sometime. The length of the CR has been a sticking point, with some interest in extending through March and other reports that it could extend until late April. There is interest by some in a longer-term CR in order to enable the Senate to focus time right away on the confirmation process of Trump Administration appointees. As of this writing, it was still unclear what direction Congress would take and what the prospects are for consideration next week.
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate also released their chambers’ respective calendars for being in session in 2017. Links to those calendars can be found here for the House and here for the Senate.
Government Confirms No GE Wheat in Commercial Supplies
In a statement published today, Dec. 1, 2016, it was announced that, after a thorough examination regarding the genetically engineered (GE) wheat detection in Washington State, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has closed its fact finding. The Agency also said it found no evidence of GE wheat in commerce.
NAWG and the U.S. Wheat Associates express our appreciation to APHIS for its work in this isolated incident. Effective communications between government officials, including APHIS and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, farmer organizations, the grain trade and customers kept the process moving in a positive way. We also thank our overseas customers for their rational response to this situation and their continued confidence in the quality and value of U.S. wheat.
On July 29, 2016, USDA confirmed the discovery by a farmer of GE wheat plants growing in an unplanted agricultural field in Washington State. After thoroughly examining the farmer’s property, APHIS detected a total of 22 wheat plants that were volunteering in an unplanted field. The GE wheat in question is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commonly referred to as Roundup®.
Working with the farmer, APHIS took measures to ensure that no GE wheat moved into commerce. Although the volunteers were not in a planted field, out of an abundance of caution, APHIS tested the farmer’s full wheat harvest for the presence of any GE wheat material. All samples were found to be negative for any GE wheat material.
The statement added that there are no GE wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time, as APHIS has not deregulated any GE wheat varieties.
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Trump Administration in Transition
President-Elect Donald Trump has continued to name cabinet members this week. While the Secretary of USDA remains to be seen, he has nominated a Secretary of Treasury and Secretary of Commerce in addition to his picks for Secretary of Education, Secretary of Health and Human Service, and Secretary of Transportation. Current Representative Tom Price has been elected for the Secretary of Health and Human Service which oversees the Food and Drug Administration in charge of food safety and nutrition labels. Price, a House member from Georgia, has served in the House of Representative since January 2005 with a focus on health care issues. The nominee for Secretary of Transportation is no stranger to an Administration: Elaine Chao who served as Deputy Transportation Secretary under President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, will be tasked to find solutions for US infrastructure, including those important to agriculture transportation. NAWG continues to closely monitor relevant cabinet picks as the transition process continues.
EPA Settles Increases in Renewable Fuel Volumes
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the increases in the renewable fuel volume requirement for all categories of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, after proposing the volume requirements in May of this year. The EPA, required to conduct annual rulemaking, settled the volume requirements and associated percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for 2017, and for biomass-based diesel for 2018. These standards are increasing by as much as 35 percent, in the case of cellulosic biofuel, which must achieve at least 60 percent lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Total renewable fuel volumes grow 1.2 billion gallons from 2016 to 2017, which is a 6 percent increase. The EPA stated that the standards would increase production and allow for a productive and achievable rate of growth in biofuels in the transportation sector. NAWG supports increased volumes in the Renewable Fuel Standard, and applauds the EPA’s actions.
Kansas State University Scientists Progress on Wheat Scab Resistance
According to findings published online in the journal Nature Genetics, Kansas State University scientists have isolated and cloned the gene that will provide resistance to Fusarium head blight, or wheat scab. Causing $7.8 billion in losses for U.S. wheat farmers between 1993 and 2001, wheat scab is most often found in humid growing regions, although it has also caused severe damage in more northern states such as North Dakota and Minnesota, who lost nearly 50% of the state’s wheat crop in 1997, with an estimated $1 billion in losses. After 20 years of research, including scientists in China and several American universities, Kansas State University has reported that they have identified the DNA and protein sequence of the resistance gene, and are gaining an idea of how the gene provides resistance. According to Bikram Gill, professor of plant pathology and director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center at Kansas State University, traditional and molecular wheat breeding will benefit from the finding. Testing for new varieties against the disease will be able to be much faster with the new research that has emerged. NAWG applauds these developments by Kansas State University, and encourages growers and the public to stay informed on developments in research on wheat scab, particularly with the 2016 National Fusarium Head Blight Forum taking place next week in St. Louis, Missouri, where growers, millers, scientists, and others will gather to hear speakers on a variety of topics related to wheat scab. More information can be found here.